Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Brandon Marsh :: 28 October 2014

Five months since I last got out for a visit to a reserve. Having been away so frequently recently, it is nice to have a few days off and take time to do some things for myself.

After a quick trip to the shops and a little driving practice with my daughter, it was off to WWT Brandon Marsh with Charlotte. Lunch at the Badger tearoom followed by some fresh air as we strolled around the reserve. JayCaught the nuthatch at the feeders outside the Visitor Centre but it was slow progress as we made our way round passed the edge of the golf course. We hoped to see the jay as it is quite a good time to see them out and about with so much food on the trees, but no luck. Stopped for a seat at the turn and watched a kestrel hover looking for lunch. Just as we were about to leave we had a fly past from a jay right over our heads - tremendous. On our way to the East Marsh hide a kingfisher provided another fly past.

From the Carlton Hide we had several jay sightings and then again from the new hide beyond that. To cap it all, we then had a jay drop onto a fence post just ahead of us as we made our way back the the Autumn on the edge of Coventry.Visitor Centre as light started to fade - probably our best ever encounter, although light levels made photos difficult.

A good afternoon in pleasant autumnal conditions.

Our sightings for the day (36) included: magpie, great tit, chaffinch, pied wagtail, blue tit, robin, pheasant, feral pigeon, greenfinch, woodpigeon, carrion crow, dunnock, blackbird, nuthatch, buzzard, long tailed tit, kestrel, black headed gull, jay, shoveler, coot, mute swan, tufted duck, gadwall, wigeon, mallard, moorhen, lapwing, starling, common gull, lesser black backed gull, teal, greylag goose, kingfisher, wren and grey heron.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Brandon Marsh :: 5 May 2014

Very late post of a visit to the reserve in the spring half term. It has been sitting in my inbox for a while.

The day's sightings (21) included: carrion crow, pied wagtail, coot, mallard, black headed gull, cormorant, woodpigeon, blue tit, robin, reed bunting, blackcap, starling, chaffinch, blackbird, greylag goose, grey heron, swallow, red kite, great crested grebe, common tern and black tern.

From the numbers of species it can be seen that it was a quiet day on the reserve.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Brandon Marsh :: 15 April 2014

More than six months since we were here last. Saw photos when the site was more flooded but it seems to be back to usual again. Car park was full - well I suppose it is the school Easter break, that's why I was out on a Tuesday.

Began with lunch in the Badger tearoom. Decided that bacon and brie on a baguette trumps the panini. Then out onto the reserve and the glorious weather. No jay for Charlotte and missing the kingfisher wasn't ideal, but great spotted woodpecker and bullfinch to finish kept her happy.

So many chiffchaffs out on the reserve. Blackcaps too. Heard many whitethroats, but not one single sighting. ChiffchaffThe scrape on East Marsh was really quiet as was Newlands from the Carlton hide. Good on species, slow on numbers, other than warblers.

Today's sightings (46) included: magpie, greylag goose, great tit, chaffinch, pheasant, reed bunting, blue tit, dunnock, robin, pied wagtail, coal tit, carrion crow, coot, canada goose, tufted duck, mallard, grey heron, moorhen, kestrel, chiffchaff, blackbird, mute swan, great crested grebe, black headed gull, garden warbler, lapwing, cormorant, oystercatcher, redshank, gadwall, shoveler, blackcap, teal, sand martin, lesser black backed gull, little ringed plover, snipe, buzzard, kingfisher, little grebe, housemartin, woodpigeon, wren, great spotted woodpecker, feral pigeon and bullfinch.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

BOS Alkerton/Balscote Quarry :: 22 March 2014

Dropped in to see if anything had changed on the site. Nothing different on the water with wigeon and shoveler still present. Cold in the wind. Missed a photo of the kestrel playing with a buzzard. Shame - it would have been nice to have them both in the same shot.

Sightings (22) included: kestrel, blackbird, great tit, pheasant, blue tit, greenfinch, goldfinch, woodpigeon, chaffinch, coot, mallard, dunnock, stock dove, moorhen, shoveler, wigeon, snipe, buzzard, robin, carrion crow, lapwing and black headed gull.

Saw green woodpecker flying across the field as I turned to North Newington from Wroxton. I wonder if it one of the pair we often see around the quarry?

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Draycote Water :: 15 March 2014

All of humanity seemed to have turned out to Draycote Water today. Car Park full. WheatearIt didn't bode well for catching a glimpse of the long-staying great northern diver. Having made the mistake of heading clockwise to the 'Valve Tower' last time, when sightings were off Farnborough Spit, anti-clockwise it was. Straight-away a group of meadow pipits and two wheatear caught my attention on the bank below the footpath. They didn't seem too bothered by the cars, cyclists, runners and walkers passing by.
If I was going to make a full circuit this time then I'd need to get a shift on. Too many people on the water around to the hide and so not much chance of catching up with the diver here. More than 20 great crested grebes had taken shelter in the shallows around the hide. The favourite fishing spots seemed to be mainly on the north side and again not much to be noted here either. This wasn't looking good.
Back to 'Valve Tower' and just the march home. But no, there it was ... Great Northern Diverin amongst a few coot and great crested grebes. Must have been pushed to shore by the leisure boats and fisherman. Easy viewing, other than the long distances travelled underwater and appearing somewhere completely different. At last.
Sightings for the day (35) included: coot, mallard, canada goose, tufted duck, rook, meadow pipit, wheatear, great crested grebe, black-headed gull, common gull, lesser black backed gull, carrion crow, pied wagtail, teal, moorhen, reed bunting, great tit, blue tit, dunnock, woodpigeon, magpie, robin, wigeon, gadwall, wren, chaffinch, little grebe, blackbird, jackdaw, long tailed tit, mute swan, cormorant, great northern diver, goldeneye and redwing.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

RSPB Otmoor :: 22 February 2014

Dropped 'her indoors' off at her tennis match and skipped off to RSPB Otmoor. Conditions were wet underfoot but not as bad as I'd feared. Fields were underwater but the paths were all pretty passable. The car park was as full as I've ever seen it. Great spotted woodpeckerPeople didn't seem to be congregating anywhere around the reserve but when I got to the 1st screen there was a small group all focussed across the reeds to the hedgerow. Sure enough a couple of minutes later, up rose a hen harrier (female) which quartered the reedline along the hedgerow and then over. Short but sweet, unfortunately too distant for decent photos. Up rose flocks of lapwing and golden plover as the harrier progressed rightwards and out of site. The others drifted off but I waited a few minutes in hope of a repeat - none came.

I pushed on to the second screen where I was told that I'd just missed a brief show from the bittern - damn, if only. Never mind, next time.

Today's sightings (32) included: magpie, lapwing, kestrel, starling, mallard, chaffinch, great tit, blue tit, pheasant, great spotted woodpecker, marsh tit, canada goose, red kite, coot, wigeon, shoveler, buzzard, teal, little egret, hen harrier, tufted duck, great crested grebe, gadwall, golden plover, pochard, black headed gull, woodpigeon, blackbird, reed bunting, cormorant, robin and wren.

Balscote Quarry & Draycote Water :: 21 February 2014

Another cold windy day with a chance of rain, must be time for a walk. Off to BOS Alkerton/Balscote Quarry. No sign of the great grey shrike again. Did manage to find buzzard, woodpigeon, stock dove, redwing, carrion crow, rook, woodpigeon, meadow pipit, green woodpecker, pheasant, greenfinch, chaffinch, tree sparrow, goldfinch, dunnock, blue tit, coal tit, great tit, yellowhammer, robin, mallard, mute swan, blackbird, coot, teal, moorhen, kestrel, lapwing, snipe, magpie and pied wagtail (31 species).

After a spot of lunch at home, I decided to continue on to Draycote Water to see if I could see the great northern diver, or the long tailed duck. A bracing 3½ mile stroll. GoldeneyeGetting late in the afternoon I suppose the diver was out near the middle and I couldn't spot it. However I was just in time to catch the long tailed duck as it headed away from the shore. The sightings (24) around the reservoir included: coot, canada goose, moorhen, black headed gull, lesser black blacked gull, common gull, tufted duck, mallard, goosander, goldeneye, long tailed duck, pied wagtail, great crested grebe, little grebe, blue tit, blackbird, great tit, woodpigeon, heron, buzzard, cormorant, magpie, carrion crow and rook.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

BOS Balscote Quarry :: 2 February 2014

A couple of hours until Ireland play Scotland in the Rugby Six Nations. Just enough time for a quick trip to Balscote Quarry to see if the great grey shrike would play ball. No report of a sighting since January 25th though.

Boy, cold again. Entertained by a hunting kestrel and two green woodpeckers that seemed to be having fun holding onto the screen on the left side of the pool. We tried to stay warm but there was no respite in the blustery conditions. We popped up to the other end of the quarry to see if we could strike lucky. We had managed to forget suitable footwear for Charlotte and so I had to go it alone. As I got to the first slope out shot a bird from the bramble scrub, down to the debris (pallets, wire mesh etc etc) heaped in mounds. A black edge to the wing, a thick white prominent bar on the wing - there it was! But where was it ...? Disappeared into or behind the mound and gone - despite waiting for the bird to re-emerge, nothing. A better view please and maybe even a photo ... no chance. Another visit will be required, but at least we know it is still there.

Sightings (27) included: teal, mallard, coot, moorhen, great tit, blue tit, chaffinch, goldfinch, greenfinch, coal tit, dunnock, snipe, tree sparrow, kestrel, robin, lapwing, green woodpecker, carrion crow, woodpigeon, long tailed tit, blackbird, pheasant, buzzard, great grey shrike, rook, meadow pipit and wren.

Lost in the rugby. Perhaps we should have stayed longer.

Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust :: 1 February 2014

With 'her indoors' off playing in a tennis match (which they won), I decided to slope off and try out a couple of sites I hadn't visited before. The first was Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) Calvert Jubilee. Cold and windy, with a threat of a shower I soon found one of the two hides listed on the Trust's website. Quite a few coot on the water and cormorant on the floating rafts, but not much else. The pair of little grebes made the visit to the hide slightly more rewarding - great to watch them hard at work.

On the outside perimeter, a couple of red kite cruised over, presumably spreading out from the A41. Having read about woodcock being flushed from the ground around the hide, I ventured out around the squelchy ground to the scrub area between the lake and the road. A vocal green woodpecker was really the only species of note, although both redwing and fieldfare passed over. Time for a change.

Through Grendon Underwood to BBOWT Upper Ray Meadows. Access was slightly daunting due to the water filled pot-holes on the lane - perhaps a lowered car suspension wasn't the best option. Blue titThe wind seemed to have picked up and felt to have more of a bite. A mixed flock of fieldfare, redwing and starling in the field behind the car park had raised the interest of a peregrine falcon; beautiful in the late sunlight. The hides yielded little, just common garden birds. Worth returning later in the month when some of the visiting waders settle back in.

All in all it was a pleasant couple of hours and now I know the sites, I'll be back.

Sightings (22) included: coot, moorhen, cormorant, tufted duck, great crested grebe, little grebe, red kite, black headed gull, carrion crow, magpie, blackbird, rook, blue tit, great tit, fieldfare, green woodpecker, lesser black backed gull, woodpigeon, goldfinch, redwing, starling and peregrine falcon.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Big Garden Birdwatch :: 25 January 2014

I’ve just completed the RSPB Big Garden #Birdwatch. Despite the kitchen bouncing with the arrival of the week's shopping, the kids getting breakfast and raised voices, I managed to fit in an hour.

Unfortunately nothing unusual but quite a few birds through the garden. Putting out the suet pellets was successful in drawing in the magpie and starlings. The peak numbers in the 12 species that visited was: chaffinch (6), blackbird (2), goldfinch (8), blue tit (4), dunnock (2), magpie (1), robin (1), starling (3), great tit (2), coal tit (1), woodpigeon (3), greenfinch (2).

Sunday, 19 January 2014

BOS Balscote Quarry :: 19 January 2014

Another shrike-less afternoon. In another attempt to see the great grey shrike that has been frequenting the quarry area for the last few months, we dropped in to the quarry again. Our target species failed to make an appearance. Alkerton/Balscote QuarryThere was a constant flow of tits and finches on the feeders. It was really positive to see such a good number of house sparrows too. However, the treat at the end of our visit, was a pair of green woodpeckers rotating on the pole underneath the owl box.

Tree sparrowA beautiful day to be out and about but a little on the cold side.

Our sightings (26) included: blue tit, great tit, tree sparrow, starling, goldfinch, chaffinch, rook, carrion crow, mute swan, dunnock, mallard, long tailed tit, greenfinch, robin, coal tit, green woodpecker, blackbird, teal, canada goose, lapwing, meadow pipit, yellowhammer, woodpigeon, snipe, wren and moorhen.